Coastal Flotillas Light Up The Holidays

Wilmington NC Historic River District and Island BeachesWilmington, NC – There’s nothing quite like a spectacular light display to kick off the holiday season. In Wilmington, North Carolina and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach, we are known for putting our light displays on the water with colorful flotillas. These festive boat parades are comprised of brightly lit sailing vessels, from the tiniest of rowboats to the largest of motor yachts. Two nighttime holiday flotillas kick off a colorful holiday season: the N.C. Holiday Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach (Saturday, November 26) and the Island of Lights Holiday Flotilla at Carolina Beach (Saturday, December 3).


While flotillas can occur any time of the year, the holiday season is especially popular for this coastal tradition. Each year thousands of visitors travel to Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach to line the waterways and cheer for the twinkling boats as they drift by in competition for the coveted “Best in Show” prize. Captains and their crews go all-out to please the crowds, decorating their boats from stem to stern in themes that range from traditional to contemporary. This originality reflects the independent spirit and creative energy that’s so prevalent in Wilmington N.C.’s historic river district and island beaches.


Celebrating its 28th year, the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla is a Wrightsville Beach tradition that kicks off the holiday season the weekend after Thanksgiving (November 25-26). On Friday night (5:45pm) the island’s official Christmas tree is lit, followed by visits with Santa at Town Hall. At 7pm, there’s an Anchor’s Away Launch Party at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort with music by The Central Park Band (admission charge). On Saturday, a full day of entertainment begins with a free Festival in the Park from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. at Wrightsville Beach Park featuring arts and crafts vendors, a classic car show, kids’ activities, food, music, inflatable amusements and the Arab Shrine Club’s choo-choo train. Then, at 6:00 p.m. the main attraction—the holiday flotilla—gets underway along Banks Channel, beginning with a fireworks volley and followed by a fantastic fireworks show. For details about the N.C. Holiday Flotilla, visit, call 910-256-2120 or email


On the first Saturday in December (December 3rd), the Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla in Carolina Beach features electrically decorated fishing boats and pleasure crafts in a spectacular display of light and sound along the Intracoastal Waterway. Beginning at 6:00 p.m., the merry boat parade cruises from Snows Cut to Carolina Beach Boat Basin and back. The best viewing station is at Carolina Beach Boat Basin. Visitors who arrive a day early will also enjoy the annual Island of Lights Nighttime Christmas Parade on Friday evening (December 2nd). Santa’s official arrival in Pleasure Island is preceded by an elaborate procession of electrical floats, marching bands, queens, and more. The Friday night parade begins at 7:30 p.m. along Lake Park Blvd. from Atlantic Avenue to Federal Point Shopping Center in Carolina Beach. Plan a weekend getaway that includes both the parade and the flotilla. While on the island, you can visit the Fort Fisher State Historic Site & Civil War Museum, Carolina Beach State Park, and the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher. You’ll also find unique gifts in museum shops and beach boutiques at Carolina and Kure beaches. For more details about the Island of Lights Christmas Flotilla and Nighttime Parade, visit


Events such as the N.C. Holiday Flotilla and the Island of Lights Festival provide a fun and affordable way to experience coastal traditions. More than 40 holiday events celebrate the season in Wilmington, North Carolina’s historic river district and the island beaches of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach. For seasonal specials, featured events and experiences, visit For a free Official Visitors Guide, call 1-866-266-9690, email, or stop by the year-round Visitors Information Center located at 505 Nutt Street, Unit A, in Wilmington’s historic river district.

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson

About the Author:

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson is the founder and Editor of Beach Carolina Magazine. Living along the coast of North Carolina, Mike has a passion for the beach and loves to bring news and events of the Carolinas to others around the world.

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